Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Posts tagged ‘Literary agency’

TO DO A LONG STORY JUSTICE

When I was seven, thirteen years ago, my second grade class created Studentreasures manuscripts. Studentreasures is a print-on-demand publisher that publishes the books of elementary school students, often, from my understanding, for no charge. As I completed mine, my teacher recognized what would later be identified as a prodigious level of ability in my writing, and simply told my mom to be sure to invite her to my first book signing. When my mom told me, it finally clicked in my brain that the names on book covers are actual people, that actual people could create something so magically transportive. I wanted to harness that power.

When I was eight, my published book came back and I was inspired to set the goal of getting published “the big way” while I was still a kid – that is, before my twentieth birthday.

When I was nine I began having dreams that were too perfectly unforgettable to leave behind without plotting the missing pieces.

When I was ten I was published in the Southern Sampler for the first time.

When I was eleven my novel began to take shape.

When I was twelve I tested my story by roping all of my friends into it.

When I was thirteen I perfected the plot of an eight-book series.

When I was fourteen I began writing a satisfactory first draft.

When I was fifteen I finished and began editing. I was scammed into submitting to a publisher through a personal connection full of bad advice. Applying to the SC Governor’s School for the Arts motivated me to read enough latin american magical realism and canon works to discover the true nature and powers of description – a journey I look back on as nothing less than a renaissance. My book began to connect me to people, including a great aunt and uncle whom I’d had little connection with in the past. When they discovered my novel they took it upon themselves to mentor me through my efforts.

At sixteen I had saved up enough money to attend the Southeastern Writers Conference, where I found guidance from the poet laureate of my state and author Emily Sue Harvey, and I left with the SWA Juvenile Writing Award and the M. L. Brown Award for YA lit.

At seventeen I attended the South Carolina Writers Workshop for the first time, where I met the literary agent who had represented my favorite childhood authors, including Jean Craighead George and Gail Carson Levine. She remembered me a year later when I queried her. My efforts in the publishing industry embellished my college applications and earned me a scholarship to the University of South Carolina. I worked on a magazine internship and received multiple awards for my poetry.

At eighteen I had crafted a query letter that earned me serious consideration and critiques from some of the best literary agencies in the field, including Andrea Brown, Fineprint Lit, Curtis Brown, and Literary Foundry + Media.

At nineteen I rewrote my manuscript for the fifth time at the request of one of these agents. I was enlisted to help draft adventures for the upcoming Boy Scouts of America emblems Plug & Axel. I earned a critique that has sold in auctions for over two thousand dollars.

In my journeys I have met C. E. Murphy, Nicholas Sparks, Steve Berry, Patricia Smith, Marjory Wentworth, Michael Connelly, and countless other authors of less renown who should be far more renown than they presently are.

I have no accomplishment that can possibly yardstick the hours, the sacrifices, the hope, and the passion that have gone into half a dozen rewrites and hundreds of revisions. But I have gained more respect for myself and shown the world more of my soul than I ever could have done had I taken another path.

I take vicious pride in knowing I did everything I could do.

On my twentieth birthday, the top of my Mount Everest was sliced off before I could reach it. It broke my heart.

And I know that the opus speaks for the life, not the life for the opus – no one will want to read this story to so little gratification. It’s the door that gets farther away the faster you sprint toward it, it’s the video game you lose on the last level. Except a little less hopeless.

What now? Well… that’s top secret writer information. 🙂

KELLEY SONNACK AT ANDREA BROWN LITERARY AGENCY ~ THOUGHTS

I’m back! I thought I’d share my thoughts on an agent I had an experience with recently:  Kelly Sonnack with Andrea Brown Lit. I got a positive response to a query I sent her back in September and traded three or four rounds of subsequent emails with her before I was ultimately rejected.

Ms. Sonnack was very polite. I can find no fault with the professional nature of her emails, as I could with other agents. She formatted all of her criticisms with “I like… but…,” the exact style I encourage wherever I can.

She did say one thing that got under my skin. She didn’t like the narrative choices I had made with my story, and at one point she expressed this in a way that made my writing sound like a mess that needed to be “put together.” That may simply say a lot about my sensitivity, though.

Overall, she was helpful. Based on her criticism and the concerns of a few other of my trusted critics, I began another rewrite. I reworked the narrative into a simpler if less compact form.

Another positive experience!

A few notes about Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary

I just wanted to say she seems like a nice lady. The open-minded sort. She was another one who made the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop worthwhile for me last year, suggesting I email her at the very last moment of the conference, shortly after the last class. I had asked a question during a panel about young writers and whether my age was something appropriate to mention in a query. She said yes – It’s a marketing point and a strength.

Dream Diary:  I dreamed about getting to see my long-distance boyfriend!

Word Count:  Still around 20,000.

Mollie Glick from Foundry Literary + Media

Sorry for the delay. I have to do my summering sometime. I am 18, after all.

Well, I have an update. I haven’t queried for a month because the literary agent considering my work required a period of exclusivity. Very annoying to someone with a time schedule. However, working with her was a pleasant experience. Around 40 days passed since I sent her the partial, so I emailed asking for an update. She responded quickly with a thoughtful and positive review (strong preface, engaging narrative), and even went so far as to ask that I query her with future ideas. This project, however, wasn’t perfect for her.

Who is she? Mollie Glick of Foundry Media. The cool thing about my experience with this agent was getting to meet her. She was the agent-in-residence at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop Conference this year, so I got to sit down and talk with her about my writing about the industry. She had not read my chapters yet when I spoke with her, but it was a bonus to get that face time.

Sorry I haven’t posted the review yet. I promise they will come. As soon as the summer funk wears off.

More later! ❤

THE TOP 7 DOWNFALLS OF WRITERS

Again, I made this list with the help of a workshop I received in Cheryl Norman’s Novel Writing Class at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop.

The Top 7 Downfalls of Writers:

  1. Lack of self-discipline
  2. Failing to use biological time positively (Ex. Are you a morning person? A night person?)
  3. Creating distractions/giving in to them
  4. Failing to finish individual pieces of work
  5. Failing to set goals that are high enough
  6. Not honoring one’s own unique material and VOICE
  7. Failing to acknowledge the duality within the creative person (Ex. Extend yourself! See what you can do.)

BREAKING INTO THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

As my blog readers know, I attended the Southeastern Writer’s Conference last month and got a bit of a shock. Miss Stephanie and–godforbid–Edward flipping Cullen did far more for me than I ever could have dreamed.

The industry is in a sad condition right now. That is undeniable. Agent in Residence Mollie Glick gave a speech about her job as a literary agent and revealed that a large part of it is keeping up with editors. Not only are editors moving and shuffling around between publishers and houses these days, they’re dropping like flies. Entire branches and houses are getting cut off.

It’s dark.

Apparently, Borders booksellers has nearly gone bankrupt several times within the past year and have survived by a miracle. (I’m very interested in this situation and there may be a post about it soon.) Without a doubt, the disappearance of a major booksellers would be disastrous to the industry. E-books would probably take off, boosting the printed word toward an obsolete state.

How do you break in when things are this bad? Where is the hope?

  1. Okay. Competition is high. It’s always been high. Relatively, it’s not that much of a difference.
  2. One market is still booming. One genre is easier than ever to break into. Respect for it is growing, and its popularity is wonderful. This is the Young Adult market, especially Fantasy. My market.

Four people–Emily Sue Harvey, Cheryl Norman, Mollie Glick, and Holly McClure–all remarked on how well the YA market is doing at the conference last month. About a week after it ended, I was in a bookstore, and I asked an employee if she was familiar with the YA section and if she could tell me what was selling best. She pointed to a few titles, naming one I’d never heard of (which made it all the more beneficial to me). “Anything to do with vampires, witches, or fairies. Actually,” she said, pausing, “that’s most of what we get coming through here right now.”

I almost cried.

If you’re a young adult fantasy writer, now is the time to step up and shoot for it. Despite the economic downturn, we are the ones who have been empowered. And it’s probably all thanks to Miss Stephanie Meyer and Mr. Edward Cullen!

JENNIFER JACKSON AT DONALD MAAS LITERARY AGENCY

I apologize for the never-ending two-day absence. My 9 cousins have been eating me alive.

Today I wanted to talk about an experience I had at the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop way back in October. This workshop is ENORMOUS–surprising for the petulant li’l palmetto state, no?

One of the ten agents in residence was Jennifer Jackson of Donal Maas Literary Agency, a lady I refer to as the Chuck Norris of the industry. She has over 40 clients, and I don’t know how she reads and manages that much every day. Even before I went to the conference I’d been reading her blog, and I admired her.

I was thrilled but extremely nervous when I learned I would be receiving a critique from her.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience. One on one, Ms. Jackson is quite friendly and very pleasant to work and talk with. Her critque of my writing was not harsh. She simply pointed out the things she wished for as a reader–and this approach moved me to start a rewrite. I aged my audience up, took out the backstory dumps, fleshed out the characters, and dimmed the corniness a bit–and these changes turned out to be the difference between 3rd place and 1st place in the contest for the M. L. Brown Award for Young Adult Literature offered at the SWA Conference.

I cannot express how much I admire Jennifer Jackson for the amount she accomplishes in the industry and her friendly attitude. Though my book isn’t right for her–I think she prefers 3rd person narratives–my book would not be the masterpiece it is without her critique. Thanks Chuck!

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